Among all the original jewels created by Van Cleef & Arpels, the ‘Zip’ necklace is the most distinct one, elevating the humble zipper into a sophisticated piece of jewellery – thanks to an idea of the Duchess of Windsor.
In 1938, Wallis Simpson asked Renée Puissant, the Maison’s artistic director from 1926 to 1942 and daughter of Alfred Van Cleef, to create a jewel inspired by the zip fastener, which was invented in late 19th century America.
The challenging premise required years of technical innovation at the Maison, but the resulting necklace, which was finally produced in 1951, immediately became an iconic design for Van Cleef & Arpels.
Featuring a working zipper closure, the highly flexible necklace is able to capture the spirit of the ‘Couture’ style of the 1950’s, brilliantly linking ‘Haute Couture’ and ‘Haute Joaillerie’. Throughout the 1950’s, the Maison designed a limited number of ‘Zip’ necklaces in yellow gold decorated with diamonds or colored stones.
Not only is the design of the versatile ‘Zip’ necklace lauded for its originality, but the technical advancements achieved to create it are a testament to the ingenuity of Van Cleef & Arpels. The necklace converts to a stylish bracelet by removing the upper part of the necklace and then ‘zipped’ into a bracelet, with the gold thread tassel dangling on the side of the arm.
Though the Maison has created modern ‘Zip’ necklaces in recent years, very few originals were made during the 1950s and only less than 10 have ever appeared at auction. The rare ‘Zip’ necklace remains a highly covetable jewel and a hallmark of truly original jewelry design and technical achievement.